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Computer Scientist Hailed for Introducing AI Concepts to K-12 Students

UMass Lowell Faculty Member to Receive Educator Award

Fred Martin with Medford middle school students
UMass Lowell Computer Science Prof. Fred Martin will be honored next year for his work developing K-12 curricula in robotics and artificial intelligence.

11/18/2021

Contact for media: Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu

LOWELL, Mass. – A UMass Lowell computer scientist and associate dean will be honored early next year for his work developing the educational framework that introduces the study of robotics and artificial intelligence to K-12 students. 

Computer Science Prof. Fred Martin, associate dean for teaching, learning and undergraduate studies in the university’s Kennedy College of Sciences, will receive a 2022 AAAI/EAAI Outstanding Educator Award for his work with the Artificial Intelligence for K-12 Initiative (AI4K12.org).

The award is presented annually by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and the Educational Advances in Artificial Intelligence (EAAI) Conference to individuals or teams who have made major contributions to AI education. 

“I’m thrilled by the impact our work has had. It was a real team effort among the four of us who led the project, with contributions from a core group of about 15 K-12 teacher-practitioners,” Martin said. 

Martin, a Sudbury resident, will speak at the 36th AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence in February of next year. The awards have been bestowed since 2016.

The AI4K12 Initiative is jointly sponsored by AAAI and CSTA and receives funding from the National Science Foundation. The initiative began in 2018, with the goal of developing national guidelines for AI education in grades K-12; an online, curated resource directory to facilitate AI instruction; and a community of practitioners, researchers, and resource and tool developers focused on the AI for K-12 audience.

Martin and other researchers on the team identified the “Five Big Ideas of AI,” which provide a welcoming and inspiring framing for understanding artificial intelligence. These big ideas are perception, representation and reasoning, learning, natural interaction and societal impact. The team also developed an infographic to visually communicate these ideas. The poster places societal impact in the center, reflecting its importance and its connection to each of the other big ideas.

An accomplished group of K-12 teachers were recruited to the AI4K12 Initiative project to lead the development of progression charts that unpack and describe the big ideas in age-appropriate ways for students in kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, sixth through eighth grade and for those in high school. 

The team’s most influential paper, Envisioning AI for K-12: What Should Every Child Know About AI?, has been cited more than 100 times since its publication in 2019, and the Five Big Ideas have guided the development of primary and secondary AI education initiatives around the world. The infographic has been translated into 16 languages and is available for download at AI4K12.org.

“Our ‘Five Big Ideas’ have inspired teachers around the world, allowing them to make sense of a complex set of ideas and bring them to their students,” Martin said. “I’m so grateful for this recognition. The prior winners of this award are true leaders in the field.”

Martin shares the honor with the other members of the AI4K12 Steering Committee: founder and chair of AI4K12 David Touretzky, a research professor at the Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Science Department; AI4K12 co-chair Christina Gardner-McCune, an associate professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering; and Deborah Seehorn, who co-chaired the Computer Science Teachers Association’s (CSTA) national computing standards effort before retiring.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe. www.uml.edu